How to Train a Dog to Go Potty on Command

Updated on February 21, 2018
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Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Why Train Your Dog To Potty on Command?

Training a dog to go potty on command can turn out very helpful in various circumstances. For instance, many dog owners may find it helpful during the winter when minutes may feel like hours awaiting for Fido do his business! And what about the summer when you're under the scorching heat and you're giving blood donations to pesky mosquitoes? Another great circumstance, may be when traveling. It is a known fact that dogs do not generalize well, therefore a dog who tends to go potty on the grass, may have a hard time going potty on gravel, or a dog used to potty off-leash may have trouble going potty when on leash. Stopping for a potty break during travel with a dog who does not want to do its business, may put a significant dent on your travel projects wasting precious time.

By putting the action of going potty on cue, you will help your dog generalize, upping the chances for going in areas that do not look much familiar. The dog will therefore hear the familiar command, and associate it with the process of eliminating. The familiarity of the command may therefore help bypass the unfamiliarity of different places and different surfaces. Best of all, once your dog learns this command very well, going potty becomes almost a reflex, where your dog just does it without much thinking involved. Training your dog to potty on command works just as any other command, you should start training it a quiet place with little distractions going on, and then, once your dog has reliably learned the command, you can apply it to other places.

Helpful Command for Potty Training Purposes

Teaching your dog to go potty on command is also very helpful for potty training purposes. I train all puppies with this method so that potty training becomes a breeze. A common problem people who are potty training encounter is a puppy who is sent out to potty but fails to do so. Often this happens because the puppy is distracted or is more interested in playing and exploring the yard. Then, once back inside, the puppy eliminates in the home. If instead, you train your puppy to eliminate on command you set your puppy for success as your puppy will eliminate first thing once outside and then can enter the home with an empty bladder/bowel.

How to Train a Dog to Go Potty on Command in Three Steps

You can teach your dog to potty on cue by taking your dog to his usual potty place. There are basically three commands you can teach: the generic "go potty" which entails urination or defecation or the more specific "go pee-pee" and "go poop" commands. To train "go potty," which means "let's go to your potty area to do business" here are some steps:

  1. Start teaching this first thing in the morning. In the morning you'll set your dog for success since that's the time he's most likely to go after a long night of sleep.
  2. As soon as you see your dog is about to squat or lift his leg, enthusiastically say "go potty" or the more precise "go pee-pee" Timing is of the essence; you want to be precise enough that when you say ''go potty' your dog is actually urinating. This training method is known as "capturing" since you are capturing spontaneous behaviors so you can later put them on cue.
  3. Immediately after going potty praise your dog and give a treat. Repeat every morning. At some point, you may no longer have to wait to see he is about to go, your words ''go potty'' will be enough to cause him to automatically go do his business. Remember to always praise and reward!

Why it works: The cue "go potty" will help your dog associate the command with the action of peeing. Your praise and the treat will make your dog more eager to do business over and over. This is positive reinforcement training, therefore it will increase the chances the behavior will repeat and increase over time.

Tip: Most dogs will pee first, and then poop afterwards, so you can take advantage of this, by teaching your dog to "go pee-pee" as your dog starts urinating, and then waiting a bit and saying "go poop" as your dog starts emptying his bowels.

Warning: make sure you praise and reward your dog after he has completely finished his business. If you are too early, you will interrupt the urine flow causing him to need to go potty again a bit later! This is a common cause of dogs having an accident in the house right after being sent outside.

Generalizing to Other Areas

Now, that your dog has learned how to go potty on command, as with all things you train, you can move on and try to apply the command to new areas slightly away from the original potty spot. As your dog gets good at this, you can then introduce new surfaces, new places, on walks and so forth. Go gradually, and if your dog has difficulty,you may have to take back a few steps and resume to easier areas/surfaces. Remember to add distance as well, telling your dog to go potty from a distance. Don't forget to train your dog to potty on leash, some dogs are inhibited by the leash and will only go off leash. The more variety you add, the more you will help your dog generalize the action of going potty in different scenarios and under different distractions.

How Training Our Dogs to Potty on Command Helped Us

  • On a cruise trip, dogs had a small designated area to eliminate. Many dog owners were struggling getting their dogs to potty in that area. Some were missing the area, others were unsuccessful in getting their dogs to go. We were very lucky thanks to the "go potty' command. This meant we got to spend more time in our cabin with our dogs, versus many dog owners who spend a good part of the trip trying to convince their dog to potty in that area.
  • When we were getting ready to board our dog on a plane, it was important to have our dogs eliminate, as the next opportunity was after the 8-hour flight. The go potty command helped us ensure that our dogs were empty so they could have a comfortable flight without worrying about needing to eliminate.
  • When it's raining, saying go potty gets our dogs to potty quickly so our dogs get less wet and we don't have to stand in the rain for long.
  • When our vet asked us for a urine sample, it was very easy to collect as upon hearing the command to potty we were able to immediately capture a fresh sample.

As seen, training a dog to pee and poop on command can save considerable time and prevent you from freezing in the cold winter months. It could also turn out helpful if you need to collect a urine or a stool sample for your vet. There are several other circumstances such as emptying your dog's bowel and bladder before you head to work or before boarding your dog on a plane. As seen, teaching the go potty command is very well worth over all!

Questions & Answers


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      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

        I hope it works for you, along with training to go potty on command I would recommend also training that rain is fun.

      • profile image

        Dennis 2 years ago

        My lab terrorist mix - male, pisses on every bush etc... But he will not crap when it rains. He will hold it til the next day. I will try this technique hope I can do it! Thank you!

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

        It helps tremendously. We had dogs with us everywhere, we moved so many times and we took them even on a ship and this command was great to speed things up!

      • GiblinGirl profile image

        GiblinGirl 5 years ago from New Jersey

        I'm going to have to try this. Sometimes my dog takes forever outside.

      • Preacherwolf2011 profile image

        Preacherwolf2011 6 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana

        Very interesting. Wonder if it would work on my children? I kid of course... informative hub!

      • 34th Bomb Group profile image

        34th Bomb Group 6 years ago from Western New York State

        LOL!!! That they are! Fine ones at that!

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 6 years ago from USA

        Lol, 34th bomb group! For no reason I got certified as a dog trainer, I better know how to train my dogs! They are my business cards!

      • 34th Bomb Group profile image

        34th Bomb Group 6 years ago from Western New York State

        alexadry - I "hate" you.

        Note my comment and you'll see why...

        (Not really - you're darn LUCKY!!)

        It further confirms that mine does it out of spite - or DOESN'T do it out of spite!

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 6 years ago from USA

        zzron, both my dogs are trained to ''pee' and ''poop'' on command and it is great since we travel a lot and take our dogs along for hotel stays, cruises and on the plane.

      • zzron profile image

        zzron 6 years ago from Houston, TX.

        This was very interesting. I have heard someone in the past tell me the same thing. So I tried this with my dog, and it seemed to work.

      • 34th Bomb Group profile image

        34th Bomb Group 6 years ago from Western New York State

        I've been doing what you suggest for the last five (5) years. My dog is supposed to be an intelligent breed. I have very little luck in this department and have concluded that he is SO smart that he is teasing me and enjoys seeing me freeze to death.

        I still do it, though.